By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD – A large crowd braved the cold to attend last night’s public menorah lighting ceremony on Wakefield Common, kicking off the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that is Chanukah.
Organizers from Chabad of the North Shore and town officials in attendance agreed that last night’s event drew the largest crowd ever for the menorah lighting celebration on the Common.
Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, director of Chabad of the North Shore, welcomed those in attendance before leading the crowd in a number of festive songs.
“We are praying for Israel and our hearts and minds are slightly numb with what we are encountering,” he said. “But Chanukah is the festival of lights, so let’s bring a little light and a little song.”
Rabbi Sruly Brook, of Chabad of the North Shore, thanked town officials and all in attendance “for joining in this incredible show of Jewish pride.”
He then posed a question.
“A lot of people are asking, ‘Are we safe today in America? Are we safe as Jewish people?’”
By way of answering that question, Rabbi Brook related the story of Chanukah. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a small group of Jewish warriors, against all odds, defeated an occupying Greek army. But the Greeks had destroyed all the oil needed to light the Temple, except for one intact vial of oil, enough to light the Temple’s candelabrum for just one day, Rabbi Brook related. But miraculously, that one vial burned and gave light for eight days, giving the victorious Judeans time to secure more oil.
“This is the answer to a lot of our concerns,” Rabbi Brook said. “To come here today and show our Jewish pride right here in public.”
Rabbi Greg Hersh of Wakefield’s Temple Emmanuel expanded on that message.
“On these eight days of Chanukah, just as the Menorah grows every day with light and holiness, that’s something that’s available to all of us too,” he said. “We are in this dark, dark moment right now, and how can we help? What can we possibly do?
“One answer is to celebrate Chanukah and increase our light – that joy, that love, that peace within us every day, until each of us becomes like the Menorah – a beacon of light for everyone around us to bask in.” Rabbi Hersh continued. “So, as we spread peace around us, maybe it will reverberate around Wakefield and Massachusetts and America. We can have a global impact with our spark of light.”
Rabbi Evan Sheinhait of Temple Tiferet Shalom in Peabody echoed the theme of Chanukah miracles.
“This is a holiday of miracles,” he said. “May the small miracles we have shine within us and hopefully radiate to global miracles that have this global impact.”
Rabbi Brook then called upon Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio to light the “shamash,” the center candle of the menorah, which is used to light the other candles.
Rabbis Hersh, Brook and Sheinhait then sang the three blessings of Chanukah, as Rabbi Brook used the shamash to light the first candle on the menorah. On each night for the duration of the eight-day holiday, an additional light will be lit.
After the formal ceremony, those in attendance were invited to enjoy refreshments, including latkes and doughnuts.
Last night’s ceremony was organized by Marianne Seidman Cohen along with Chabad of the North Shore.